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ISO Persian restaurant owned by an El Salvadorean "Johnny"

I live in Los Angeles and just heard a news story on NPR while driving home about a man named "Johnny" (his American name) originally from El Salvador who started out as a cook at a Persian restaurant in/around D.C. and slowly learned how to make all the Persian dishes. He eventually gained the trust of the owners and his dishes were so authentic and great that the owners made him head chef. Eventually, he opened his own Persian restaurant in D.C., where he serves not just koobideh like most of the Persian restaurants in the area, but also stews and the like. His business is very successful and his catering services have been commissioned in many other states.

Does this sound familiar to anyone? I'm looking for the name of his restaurant.

I tried to find the story on NPR's and KCRW (the local station that broadcasts NPR)'s websites online, but cannot find it. I'd love to visit this restaurant next time I am in D.C. as my boyfriend is Iranian, I live in the largest Iranian-populated city in the country and close to Westwood Blvd., which is known as "little Tehran" here in L.A., and I'd love to do a comparison.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. No, it doesn't sound familiar. Just about every Persian place left in the DC area serves only kabobs with the occassional 'daily special.' There's a place in DC called Caravan Grill that has a buffet, but like many buffets, the food doesn't taste too fresh. There was also a place in Bethesda called Paradise, but I think I saw it was closed down when I went by there recently.

    In Rockville there is a market and cafe called Sam's. Maybe someone else on the board knows how extensive the menu is.

    I would love to know where this place is. All of my favorites have closed their doors. Shamshirry is very good and popular, but no stews only kabobs.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Steve

      Bad news: Caravan Grill is shut down, at least as of a few weeks ago. If anyone knows of any other Persian buffets, I'd love to hear about them.

      1. re: hamster

        persian new year is coming up in march and kebab bazaar (or palace?) in clarendon offers a whole day buffet to celebrate.

        too bad about caravan if the shutdown is permanent. the food wasn't the very best but was a good for an occasional taste of something different.

        1. re: hamster

          Pars in Fairfax has a great weekend lunch buffet

        2. re: Steve

          Johnny's Kabob
          12933 Wisteria Drive
          Germantown, MD 20874
          (240) 686-4518

        3. This post ended up veering towards Baltimore, so I apologize. First, my husband was raised in Iran, and around DC we both love Shamshiri near Tysons Corner for an authentic kabob, but unfortunately, I can't remember if they have the stews. For the best Ghormeh Sabzi I've had, you'll have to drive an hour north to House of Kabob in Baltimore (BYOB) on Hartford Road. Try it on the tah dig as appetizer. And you have to order feta/herb/walnut/onion sabzi here, it doesn't come automaticallly like in Glendale. In Towson, Orchard Market and Cafe used to have excellent Fesenjune and Shirin Pollo, but I haven't been in years.

          2 Replies
          1. re: slsmith

            i remember checking out shamshiri's specials board from the outside on my way to oriental express (regency?) in the same tyson's strip mall/office park and seeing stews listed. the shamshiri in west la definitely serves stews :-)

            1. re: Minger

              Aside from kabobs, Shamshirry has a few appetizers like torshi, mast-o-khir, bademjan, and three or so different kinds of rice. That's all for the regular menu. Many kabob places will also have a daily special, though they haven't offered one at Shamshirry when I've been there.

            1. re: mcalmus

              Wow - thanks so much! The best I could do on NPR's website was get to a sample of a transcript, and I had to buy it to find out the actual name of the restaurant. Thanks again!

            2. So ithe info from the NPR site is: Johnny's Kabob
              12933 Wisteria Drive
              Germantown, MD 20874
              (240) 686-4518

              But the more important question: has anyone tried Johnny's? Is it good?

              1. There is this little hole in the wall place called Yekta Kabobi on Rockville Pike
                which usually has daily specials of stews and other Persian delicacies. Its run by the owners who run the Iranian grocery store next door. The catch here is that the menu is rather out of date, so it helps to have someone who is well versed with the culture (in our case, our Iranian colleague) to chat with the owners, who then proffer all these goodies that the kitchen apparently cooks for most of their Iranian clientele.

                5 Replies
                1. re: anyesha

                  Are you saying they have a 'secret menu' at Yekta Kabob? What have you had there? As I've said before, most kabob places have a daily special, but if they have several items cooking away only for Iranians, that could be very interesting....

                  1. re: Steve

                    The trouble with Yekta Kabob is it's about three doors from Joe's Noodle House. How can you settle for kabobs when JNH is about 100' away??? I can't. Sigh!

                    1. re: johnb

                      That's my problem with Rockville exactly. So many interesting choices, but everytime I make the drive my car veers suddenly at the last moment to Joe's Noodle House.

                    2. re: Steve

                      It was some sort of soup of the day with lentils...very good. Then they also gave us a plate of "tadeeq" which is a crispy rice dish. And we never got all this when we went there without our Iranian colleague. I don't really know if it is all that secret though.

                      1. re: anyesha

                        tah-dig is kind of like 'the bottom of the rice pot.' I believe the pot of rice has to be cooked or prepared in a certain way to come up with this. Also, I believe sometimesrestaurants use a shortcut to get more tah-dig than what would normally be just at the bottom of the pot, after all the good rice has been scooped out.

                  2. Last Friday I I learned about this Persian restaurant in DC through a Spanish programme. Thus, here is the address and phone number of the restaurant you are looking for. Hope you enjoy Johnny's Persian cuisine.

                    Johnny's Kabob
                    12933 Wisteria Drive
                    Germantown, MD 20874
                    (240) 686-4518

                    1. We tried Johnny's Kabob last night and it was very nice. The clientele appeared mostly Salvadorean, but there were a couple tables with Persian families. The menu includes the familiar kabobs. There is a section on the menu with maybe 8 additional persian soups and stews. When we were seated they served us each a complimentary bowl of a delicious soup with noodles and greens. We ordered hummus which was very nice... better I think than Moby Dick and Caspian Cafe. The pita was also tastier I think than those two places. We thought the kabobs were pretty similar with the other places, but were served on plastic plates vs the styrofoam at Moby Dick. So... we will go there again. Thanks for letting us know about it! It's tucked back in the old shopping center behind baskin robbins/dunkin donuts, a couple doors down from Pelican Pete's. Good find!

                      Adding... the lamb kabob was really tender and delicious. It was the best lamb I've had in a long time. The kubideh and jujeh were similar to MD and CC. We also had meatballs that were like the filling from stuffed grape leaves and delicious with a lot of mint.

                      1. I think that johhnys kabob has excellent food, I'm saying this from years of eating his food. I've known johnny for a long time and his cooking has always captured my taste buds. He does wonderful catering's cooks right in front of you and even lets you steal a bit here and there. Great guy hes very polite and courteous always thinking of his customers first. I would recommend him to anyone who asks. And if ever your in the area let them know jackie sent you. Take care

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: myworldissublime

                          I can't wait to go to Johnny's. We will be staying in McLean, VA & going into DC right after Xmas. It sounds like great food. What is your favorite dish or complete meal? We have a great restaurant here in Philadelphia called Kabul if you are ever in the city of Brotherly Love.

                          We will probably check out Joe's Noodle House also since we are huge Sichuan fans. My husband travesl to China quite frequently so we are quite picky. If any one has any other recommendations for the Mc Lean/ Rockville area, let me know. Serious foodies reply only!

                          1. re: cycle of life

                            Gee, it's part of the Chowhound creed to travel distances for good food, but I'm not sure Johnny's is worth the 25+ miles each way from McLean to Germantown. It a small storefront that's been deserted customer-wise most of the time - for me it suffers from being next to a Hunan charmer named Peking Palace. You might want to call Johnny's before heading north to see what's on the menu that day.

                            I agree with earlier posters about Shamshiry just off Route 7 near the Dulles Tollroad.



                            Here's the website for Joe's Noodle House [note: it's perpendicular to Route 355 and "behind" the On The Border restaurant] - very good especially if you have 4+ people to share a variety of the family-sized portions.


                            Today's post was your first on Chowhound [Welcome!], so you have no Chow-history to help us give you suitable recommendations. You might want to search prior threads about Northern Virginia Chowhound favs "China Star" and "Hong Kong Palace" for Sichuan and "Ravi Kabob" for the obvious. If this doesn't meet your needs, please start a new thread with more specifics (e.g., price points, cuisine preferences, etc.).